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Eight Ways to Tell if Your Fertility Doctor "Gets" You

A blog by Kara Nguyen, MD, MPH, RMA of Central Pennsylvania at PinnacleHealth, July 29, 2015

The journey to parenthood can be overwhelming, confusing, and utterly frustrating when you aren’t getting pregnant. I have heard patients talk about the “infertility train” where you get on and there’s no getting off. I think that whole concept is just awful. It is easy to lose perspective and remember what the most important things are.

As an infertile patient myself, I often rely on my own experiences to empathize with patients. Making the decision to seek a consultation with an infertility specialist is brave because it is entrusting your personal goals of becoming a parent to someone who does not know you – your dreams, your hopes, your values. However the qualities of compassion and warmth are a prerequisite in your doctor especially when you need help with infertility. You know your fertility specialist understands you if he/she demonstrates the following attributes:

  1. Understands the element of time. By the time you have made your initial consultation, you may have already been trying to have a baby for months or years. You may feel defeated and scared that you have waited too long. After so much frustration and time trying, you just want to get pregnant. Your provider should be able to schedule you quickly, start promptly with the testing you need and give recommendations so you can maximize your time and use every precious cycle. Unlike the other doctors in your life, your fertility specialist will understand that you don’t want to wait another day to become a parent. The evaluation will be focused and the treatment plan starts as soon as you complete your first consultation.
  2. Doesn’t say “Just relax”. Anyone with infertility knows that you just simply NEVER say this. I personally found this the most difficult thing to do when you just don’t feel closer to your goals of parenthood with each negative pregnancy test. No amount of saying “just relax” helps. All you can do is be good to yourself and do things that make you feel good about yourself.
  3. Knows the social pressure you feel. When you are trying to get pregnant, everyone around you seems to be pregnant. You may hear these same people innocently ask you constantly, “So when are you going to have a baby?” Most couples never think they will have any issues with getting pregnant. Being at a fertility specialist’s office is the last place you want to be. Getting pregnant, having a baby, and doing “family” activities are natural and normal, right?
  4. Gives you a plan. You should have a plan after every encounter. Having no plan raises the anxiety level and can make you feel like you are not on the same page as your doctor. Even if the plan is to take a break from fertility treatment, your doctor should know and have the next steps plan when you decide to resume treatment.
  5. Allows you to be you. There will be good moments and there will be challenging moments. Every patient enters this journey towards parenthood at different stages. You may need to cry, scream, hide, research, challenge, or simply go through the motions. You don’t need to be optimistic and cheerful or positive. Doing fertility treatment can be difficult with all those monitoring visits, blood work, injections, and waiting for pregnancy results.
  6. Embraces the good “eggs”. We all have good and bad eggs. Women have them in their ovaries but all patients have good and bad eggs in their lives. Keep the people who support you close. Others who have walked your shoes can be valuable advocates and help remind you that success can happen to you too. Your fertility specialist will help remind you of the family and friends who can help make each step easier. Sometimes taking a break and spending more time with these good eggs will keep things in perspective so you can take that next step.
  7. Is on your speed dial list. When I was going through treatment, I could email my doctor any time I needed him. He responded quickly but simply knowing that I could reach him with concerns that simply couldn’t wait until the next visit was reassuring. I met with him often so I didn’t need to speed dial him much but it was comforting enough to know that I could!
  8. Knows being a parent is a part of your identity. Helping you have a baby is the primary goal for a fertility specialist so when you seek consultation you should know that it is one shared goal that you both have. As specialists, we understand that this is not simply about treating a medical condition for your health. Becoming a parent or having the family you envisioned is as important as who you are.

When you are getting fertility treatment, you have invested a great deal emotionally and physically. Make sure you are working with a team of specialists, nurses, and administrative team that make your experience a priority.

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